What a man. What a gesture. Essendon captain Jobe Watson will hand back his Brownlow Medal. The 31-year-old issued a statement Friday afternoon saying:
"It is with mixed emotions that I have decided to hand back my 2012 Brownlow Medal. It is now up to the AFL Commission at their meeting on Tuesday to make a decision as to what they want to do with it.
"If there is a question in peoples minds as to whether the award is tainted, the fairest and best thing to do is to give it back and honour the history that has gone before me."
You can read Watson's full statement below.
Watson won his Brownlow, the AFL's highest individual honour, in 2012, but it has been tainted because it coincided with the Essendon supplements program, which resulted in the suspension of 34 players, Watson included.
It was long assumed by legal experts that Watson would be stripped of his Brownlow, but the AFL had dithered over making such a controversial -- and heartbreaking -- call, for one of the game's most loved and respected players.
Here's Watson's full statement:
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Last month the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland dismissed the appeal mounted by lawyers representing my teammates and I. This may represent finality of this matter from a legal perspective, however the reality is that for the players and our families it is something that we will continue to carry with us.
The negative impact it has had should not define who we are, however I believe it has undoubtedly changed us in various ways.
It is with mixed emotions that I have decided to hand back my 2012 Brownlow Medal.
It is now up to the AFL Commission at their meeting on Tuesday to make a decision as to what they want to do with it.
The basis of my decision links back to values. Football has always been a part of my life, from being a young boy watching my dad play, to my own ambitions of pursuing a dream to play at an elite level. I have benefited from being brought up in a community where people strive to be the best they can be and bring out the best in others. It has been incredibly distressing for me to have people question my integrity and infer an intention to act against the spirit of the game, a spirit that is intrinsically a part of who I am.
The basic principle behind this prestigious award is to honour the fairest and best. If there is a question in peoples minds as to whether the award is tainted, the fairest and best thing to do is to give it back and honour the history that has gone before me.
I want to make it clear that today's decision does not in anyway reflect a change in my personal opinion regarding the merits of the CAS finding, but rather reflects my desire to put to a close further speculation about what should be done with the 2012 Brownlow Medal.
One of the most frustrating elements of this entire process has been my belief that many of the decisions in this matter have been based on perception rather than evidence. I would like to share my thoughts with the AFL Commission, however that needs to be at a time and in a forum that is right for me.